Questions tagged [literalism]

Questions regarding the literal interpretation of Biblical or Rabbinic texts.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
30
votes
9answers
2k views

Avot keeping Mitzvot

How are we to understand the tradition that the patriarchs kept all of the mitzvot in the Torah (see for example: the last mishna in Kiddushin (4:14), Rashi on Bereshit 32:5, etc.) in light of the ...
23
votes
7answers
2k views

does one have to take a Midrash/Aggadah literally?

Does one have to take a Midrash/Aggadah literally?
21
votes
7answers
4k views

Is there “Torah Inerrancy”?

Is there Torah inerrancy? In other words, does the Torah contain no factual errors: the Noah flood did occur, Garden of Eden did exist, Adam and Eve did live there and were subsequently expelled, etc ...
20
votes
2answers
2k views

Does Judaism have a concept of holy text literalism?

Apologies if this is an ignorant, foolish or offensive question. I am not Jewish, and am asking to satisfy my curiosity. Some time ago, on a political forum online, I was discussing religious ...
19
votes
3answers
2k views

Is belief in Midrashim optional?

The Ramban in Sefer Havikuach (page 32, the bottom of the first column ) asserts with regard to Midrash: מי שיאמין בו טוב. ומי שלא יאמין בו לא יזיק ‏ Whoever believes in it, good, he who ...
16
votes
4answers
1k views

Did people ever place actual physical stumbling blocks before the blind?

I know that the prohibition against placing stumbling blocks before the blind has been understood to be a prohibition against misleading or causing people to sin, but the simple meaning of the text is ...
12
votes
4answers
1k views

Is it heresy to read the Bible literally?

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks in this debate with Richard Dawkins says: Rabbis in the 10th century laid down the following principle: If a biblical narrative is incompatible with established scientific fact,...
12
votes
6answers
782 views

Drawing my own conclusions from the Torah

I've always made my own inferences and interpretations from the Torah. Whether it's from a story, a Perashah or something from the Tanach. But I don't know how good/permissible that is. A problem ...
12
votes
2answers
512 views

What causes a person to remain in this world as a ghost?

A baraita on Berakhot 18b relates a story where a pious man sleeps in a cemetery and hears two spirits talking. One of them suggests they wander the world, and the other says she can't because she ...
9
votes
4answers
454 views

Plants before the Sun in the Order of Creation

Why does plant life precede the Sun in the order of creation given that plants need the Sun to do photosynthesis?
8
votes
5answers
6k views

What is the firmament?

In Genesis 1:6-8 the firmament and its creation are mentioned for the first time: And God said: 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.' ...
8
votes
3answers
1k views

Is the midrash about the moon and sun being the same size intended literally?

The Rambam in his introduction to perek Chelek discusses midrashic literalist, and classifies different approaches of different groups to midrash. He writes: You should know that as to [...
7
votes
3answers
535 views

Was Rachav A Harlot (Prostitute)?

It specifically says several times in Yehoshua chapter 2 and chapter 6 that Rachav was a Harlot " וְאֶת רָחָב הַזּוֹנָה". Why is it that it is accepted that she wasn't a harlot but an innkeeper and ...
7
votes
3answers
797 views

Is there any precedent to read the first 11 chapters of Genesis as metaphorical?

I believe this will be related to a similar question about a statement by Rabbi Sacks. Rabbi Jeremy Wieder said in a lecture titled Non Literal Interpretation of Scripture in Jewish Tradition (and ...
7
votes
1answer
178 views

Belief in the Exodus

Recently, someone who presents himself as a religious member of Jewish society told me that he feels it doesn't matter if the story of the Exodus actually happened, and can be viewed as a nice ...
6
votes
5answers
354 views

Rashi and Corporealism

Shemos 7:4- וְלֹא-יִשְׁמַע אֲלֵכֶם פַּרְעֹה, וְנָתַתִּי אֶת-יָדִי בְּמִצְרָיִם; וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶת-צִבְאֹתַי אֶת-עַמִּי בְנֵי-יִשְׂרָאֵל, מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, בִּשְׁפָטִים, גְּדֹלִים There, Rashi comments-...
6
votes
1answer
147 views

Does Jewish tradition hold the book of Jonah to be depicting historical events?

I recently heard some scholars attempt to date Jonah as a later (and hence fictional) work. Is it correct to assume that traditional Judaism considers Jonah to be a historical and accurate account of ...
6
votes
3answers
210 views

Age of Universe and Shabbat

If one believes that our world is billions of years old, i.e. accepting the idea of each day in Sheshis Imei Berieshit (the Six Days of Creation) as eras and not literal days, then how does one ...
6
votes
0answers
175 views

Which Rishonim viewed maaseh bereishit as an allegory?

I have often heard that many rishonim were comfortable with the idea that at least the first week of creation could be read allegorically, not literally. What are the specific sources that support ...
6
votes
2answers
170 views

Praying for the Moon to “fill the defect”

During Kiddush Levanah, a brief prayer is recited: וִיהִי רָצוֹן מִלְּפָנֶיךָ ה' אֱלֹקי וֵאלֹקי אֲבוֹתַי לְמַלֹּאת פְּגִימַת הַלְּבָנָה וְלֹא יִהְיֶה בָּהּ שׁוּם מִעוּט. וִיהִי אוֹר הַלְּבָנָה ...
6
votes
2answers
241 views

Non-literal Midrashim

Sometimes I'll hear a Midrash and sometimes people might say, "Well, I don't know if it's meant to be taken literally." When do we know when Midrashim are speaking metaphorically or when they are ...
6
votes
1answer
78 views

Chronology of Shofetim

Where can I find a diagram or timeline showing the chronology of the Shofetim according to different commentators? For example Rashi on Shofetim 11:26, Ralbag nearby and Abarbanel on Shmuel 1 chapter ...
5
votes
2answers
404 views

Why did the angels object to the Torah being given to Moshe – what did the angels think?

The well-known Gemoro Shabbos 88b reports the angels protesting against HKB”H giving the Torah to Israel. HKB”H tells Moshe to answer the angels and Moshe shows that the Torah is only applicable to ...
4
votes
1answer
175 views

Did manna really fall from heaven according to Rambam or Gersonides?

What does the Rambam or Gersonides, who were both rationalists, have to say on the miracle of manna falling from heaven? Did they believe such an event took place?
4
votes
1answer
78 views

Do we know of any animals that behave this way? (Bava Basra 16a)

The Gemara in Bava Basra 16a explains certain pesukim in Sefer Iyov to be referring to a conversation between Hashem and Iyov in which Hashem rebukes Iyov for denying or complaining about Hashem's ...
4
votes
2answers
250 views

Must we consider the gemara's conclusions literally true?

I have in mind gemaras such as Yoma 54b, which says, according to the interpretation of one of my rabbis, that the Even haShetiya -- the stone found under what is now the Dome of the Rock -- was the ...
4
votes
1answer
105 views

Copper mining in ancient Israel

The Torah promises [successful] copper mining in Israel's mountains: אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר ... וּמֵהֲרָרֶיהָ תַּחְצֹב נְחֹשֶׁת׃ a land ... from whose hills you can mine copper. (Deut 8.9) I tried to ...
4
votes
0answers
63 views

Rashi on Adam and on the Snake cunningness

The snake was able to speak from its creation (Likutei Sichos (10) p. 13) so why is man singled out as being capable of speech (דעה ודבור acc. to Rashi) if the snake already had it?
4
votes
0answers
53 views

Midrashic non-literalism in the Taz

The Taz writes in his Divrei David (Genesis 1:23) regarding a Midrash: ואין לנו להפקיע דברי חכמים מפשטן "We should not remove words of the Sages from their simple interpretations." Does the Taz ...
3
votes
1answer
178 views

Are there any sources that translate the term “a land flowing with milk and honey”, as being literal rather than a metaphor?

The first usage that I can find that refers to Israel as a "land flowing with milk and honey" in Exodus 3:8: וָאֵרֵ֞ד לְהַצִּיל֣וֹ ׀ מִיַּ֣ד מִצְרַ֗יִם וּֽלְהַעֲלֹתוֹ֮ מִן־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַהִוא֒ אֶל־...
3
votes
2answers
155 views

What are the circumstances of the fulfillment of Ezekiel's vision of the temple?

Ezekiel (Yechezkel) 40 begins a section about a vision of a temple with priests and sacrifices and feasts. The detailed descriptions of this temple seem to indicate that a literal (as opposed to ...
3
votes
2answers
175 views

hints from verses that 6 days of creation is not literal

Are there hints in the verses of Genesis that the 6 "days" of creation are not literal, i.e. not 24 hour periods but rather some kind of "era".
3
votes
2answers
215 views

Where is Gehenom located?

Where is Gehenom located? After Korach and his followers got swallowed up by the Earth, they fell right outside the gates of Gehenom, and are (presumably) till this day yelling משה אמת ותורתו אמת (...
3
votes
0answers
105 views

How tall was Chava?

Rashi here brings a Midrash that Adam Harishon's height was from earth until the Heavens. Based on the Midrash, was Chava that tall as well? Otherwise it would have been quite difficult to be married ...
3
votes
0answers
147 views

Understanding the Zohar's Anthropomorphism of God

Unlike the Rambam's now-conventional ideas against anthropomorphizing God, there are kabbalistic texts studied today which seem to espouse completely antithetical ideas. I am familiar with the ...
3
votes
0answers
98 views

Is the number of Jews killed during the Babylonian exile according to Gittin literally true?

Since the only authoritative sources of information, in this case, seem to be the Jewish Scriptures, can you help understand them? ... in this valley Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard killed ...
2
votes
3answers
227 views

Is the story of Gan Eden Literally true?

Could it be that the story of Gan Eden, Adam, Hava and the Snake is an allegory meant to teach us lessons but not a recording of an actual event?
2
votes
2answers
83 views

How literal is the concept of the Throne of Glory?

I am aware of two other questions asked on this site related to the Throne of Glory, but I have a somewhat different question. The baal haturim, in his commentary to the torah at Bamidbar 2:2-3 ...
2
votes
1answer
112 views

Can Angels “fall”?

According to this answer, the Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer (among other works) references an idea that angels "fell" -- were somehow separated from their holiness and "became" human. This answer states ...
2
votes
1answer
159 views

How might one reconcile a non-literal reading of the timespan of creation with literal 7th day Shabbat observance? [duplicate]

I am wondering, in the light of discussions regarding the possibility for non-literal readings of Bereishit, how we are to then understand a quite literal observation of Shabbat on the 7th day. To ...
2
votes
0answers
34 views

The moon in the future [duplicate]

We say in Kiddush Levanah, יהי רצון מלפניך...למלאת פגימת הלבנה ולא יהיה בה שום מיעוט May it be Your will...to fill the reduction of the moon, and that there should be no diminishment in it. ...
2
votes
0answers
80 views

How do we know that we can interpret the torah non-literally beyond what is found in the talmud?

I have often heard "drashot" or homiletic interpretations of many verses in the torah. How do we know that the torah can be explained in a non-literal way beyond the non-literal explanations found in ...
1
vote
1answer
147 views

Should we interpret the Torah literally or allegorically?

I had a question regarding how we should interpret the Torah. Should we interpret it literally, or if not how far can we abstract its teachings, or should we favour a mix of both approaches? I have ...
1
vote
2answers
80 views

Why does HaShem say, “I rebuke you Satan” in Zech 3:1-2.?

If Satan is obedient to G-d and works under his authority, why did HaShem reprimand him in Zechariah 3:1-2?
1
vote
1answer
212 views

Is the Leviatan real?

I've heard that he is a giant fish that will be eaten by the tzadikim when the Messiah arrives. But I've also read that it may be just a metaphor. If it is real, what about the Behemoth and the Ziz? ...
1
vote
2answers
165 views

Origin of אין משיבין על ההגדה

What is the original source for the phrase: "אין משיבין על ההגדה" (or: "אין משיבין באגדה", "אין משיבין על דברי אגדה" etc. - which I believe is generally used to mean that it is inappropriate to derive ...
1
vote
1answer
170 views

The Stones of Yaakov

the gemora in Chulin 91b comments on the pasuk in parsha vayetzei Rabbi Yitzchak said: This tells us that all the stones gathered themselves together into one place and each one said: 'Upon me ...
1
vote
1answer
145 views

Moshe's Weapon Against Og

Is there anything particularly special about the weapon Moshe used against Og? The Gemara Brachos (54b) records משה כמה הוה עשר אמות שקיל נרגא בר עשר אמין שוור עשר אמין ומחייה בקרסוליה וקטליה. ...
1
vote
0answers
229 views

How literally are we supposed to read the book of Bereshit/Genesis?

Especially with regard to the family of Abraham. Is there any extra-Biblical historical evidence of a paternal link between the Ishmaelite, Edomite and Keturan tribes and the 12 tribes of Israel? Is ...
1
vote
0answers
468 views

Why Pinchas = Eliyahu?

The Midrash says that Pinchas and Eliyahu are the same person. According to most of the Rishonim, I believe, this (as any other Midrash) should not be taken literally. Which are some of the non-...